|Put a Big Apple in The Cooler|
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
It's all about New York at The Cooler today.
Isn't it always?
Or, as Mick Jagger sang in "Shattered": "To live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!"
(Side note: Driving the streets of San Francisco the other day, radio on, I was reminded that Stones' tunes begin and end with the underrated greatness of "Gimme Shelter." Listen to it again. Tell yourself that the first 60 seconds of "Gimme Shelter" should not open every major sporting event you've ever attended -- especially the 60 seconds before an NBA Finals game, or a baseball playoff game. End of side note.)
So anyway, about New York and why it's hosting The Cooler today:
Forget the fact that last Thursday, the NFL opened its season with Bon Jovi at Times Square. That's so NFL. So loud. So glitzy. So passé. From my hotel room in Times Square that day -- on assignment for that Niners-Giants tilt -- I could see the giant Panasonic screen hovering over the square. All day, it featured the NFL logo, twirling on the screen. The only thing missing was George Orwell, handing out leaflets on the street corner for $10 off the DirecTV NFL package.
No, dweller. Shun that artificial hype.
Instead, take from this weekend of sports a slice from Saturday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. While most of America was hunkering down for an NFL kickoff and all that it entails -- including the sight of Jillian Barberie in a sweater so tight it makes Lana Turner look like a bag lady -- the U.S. Open final was rolling out the best little pre-match ceremony I think I might have ever seen.
It's as simple as this:
Boys Choir of Harlem sings "America the Beautiful."
She sings "My Country Tis of Thee" with such soul and honey, you could spread it on toast.
The Boys Choir of Harlem joins in, halfway. They're perfect.
End of ceremony.
Let Serena and Venus begin.
Let us count the things that were missing: Fireworks. Military flyovers. Kathie Lee Gifford. KISS. A six-hour pregame show. A clock on the bottom of our TV screen, counting down the hours and minutes before the match begins.
What's wrong with this picture?
I wouldn't expect Tags the Wax Commissioner to get the message. I'm sure next year's NFL opener will feature Gerardo singing "Rico Suave" at South Beach for a Broncos-Dolphins lid-lifter. Or, if they can hash out obvious scheduling issues, Billy Ray Cyrus kicking off a Texans-Jaguars battle.
Come on, NFL. Learn your lesson.
With that, our Weekend List of Five from, quite frankly, a sports weekend so righteous it's bucking for a place in The Cooler's annual roster of holiday weekends:
1. Pete and Andre
Seriously, when have we seen such an epic showdown of legends, excepting the pay-per-view of Dr. J against Kareem? I have to think that Sampras winning a tennis major at his age, after such a victory drought, in his ruthless sport of conditioning and youth, ranks up there with Jack Nicklaus winning the '86 Masters at age 46.
Except he did it against Andre, a development that imbues the victory with such depth, it would be as if Nicklaus won the '86 Masters at age 46 -- with Tom Watson in his final group, head-to-head.
Pete and Andre! Andre and Pete!
Both men have accrued such trophies -- Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the right to wake up next to Bridgette Wilson and Steffi Graf every morning.
Then, on Saturday, he rallies past Lleyton Hewitt on pure guts, and I'm in the Strat-o-Lounger getting goosebumps! Agassi and goosebumps? Once, that was as unlikely as getting goosebumps from Albert Belle after he hangs moon at a crowd of kids waiting for his autograph.
Then, Pam Shriver from CBS gets him afterward and asks him about the love from the crowd, and My Man Andre smiles and says: "This is New York, baby!" The crowd eats it up. And I'm all shivers.
You can't beat the Longevity Rule. You hang around long enough, we love you. We're easy, this American public. Now, we'll be clamoring for the "Image is Everything" ads on ESPN Classic, wiping away a tear every time.
2. NFL takes
Something to ponder.
3. Back to the U.S. Open
As for Serena and Venus, fair play to the sisters. They rule. Only problem now is, America gets bored with the greatness. Same thing going on with Tiger right now. What women's tennis needs is one of two things:
1) Serena and Venus go all-out, toss aside their Jehova's Witness-inspired peace and take every piece of sibling hatred and Freudian resentment into epic, three-set tiebreakers to give us kick-butt showdowns in every final; or
2) Rich Beem to take up tennis.
We'll settle for Option 1.
4. MVP! MVP!
Best I can tell, going into Sunday's game, Bonds was hitting .363. Best I can tell, he had 41 bombs. Best I can tell, he had 164 walks. Best I can tell, his on-base percentage was .571.
Retire the freaking award now. Rename the NL MVP award the Barry (You Never Liked Him, But You Really Have No Choice) Bonds Trophy.
And to think, once, in the presence of his greatness, I asked a question and he sneered, as if I were a stray dog in his flower bed: "Man, what school did you go to learn to ask stupid questions like that?"
I love my job.
5. Final NFL takes
Did the Browns get hosed or what? But hey, rules are rules. I know. When I type a great line into The Cooler, sometimes I get so geeked I whip off my baseball cap in elation. The boys in Bristol, following company rules, dock me 10 percent of my pay.
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.